Women sailors were at the helm at SeaFest 2018, Ireland’s national maritime festival, when they sailed six yachts from Oranmore across to Galway Harbour on the second day of the festival.
Some 39 women from Galway Bay Sailing Club were involved in the flotilla as part of Women on Water Ireland (WOWI), a network of female windsurfers, sailors and powerboaters based in Ireland. WOWI is an Irish Sailing initiative and was formed with the aim of raising the participation, profile and level of women’s water sports in Ireland. It is encouraging women to take to the helm with the goal of becoming the first women’s tribal inter-club event in 2019.
SeaFest 2018 included a strong line up of influential women in this year’s festival including Joan Mulloy, the first Irish female sailor to compete in the world-famous Solitaire du Figaro race, Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland, Kathryn Sullivan, former NASA astronaut and oceanographer, and Orla Doherty, producer of BBC’s award-winning Blue Planet.
One of the biggest crowd pleasers at the festival was the naval ship the LÉ William Butler Yeats.
SeaFest’s social media team caught up with Lieutenant Maria O’Callaghan, second in command on the ship. She spoke about the work that the naval ship does, including the mission to help rescue migrants in the Mediterranean last year. She said SeaFest is an excellent way for the naval service to engage with people and explain the work that they do.
Joan Mulloy was a big draw at the BIM/Bord Bia Seafood Experience. The first Irish female sailor to compete in the world-famous Solitaire du Figaro race, Joan brought her yacht with her to SeaFest, and had it hoisted out of the water and proved an impressive display for festival goers. Joan was promoting Ireland’s connection with the sea and seafood producers on BIM’s Taste the Atlantic – a Seafood Journey trail on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Joan explained that she’ll be the only Irish woman in the races she’s competing in this year. “The races I do – I go offshore for three to five days at a time,” she said. “It’s racing non-stop, all day and all night, 24 hours a day.”
She said she doesn’t have time or energy to be worried during races as all the focus is on making the boat go faster, checking where the competitors are and keeping track of her performance.
There was a strong line up of female speakers at Our Ocean Wealth Summit, which is held as part of SeaFest. Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, was the keynote speaker while broadcaster Olivia O’Leary MC’ed the proceedings over the two days of the Summit.
Kathryn Sullivan, former NASA astronaut and oceanographer, was another key speaker at the Summit. Orla Doherty, producer of BBC’s award-winning Blue Planet II series, was one of the other highlights of the summit programme. With family roots on the Donegal coast, Orla has a strong connection to the sea. She is an expert in underwater filming and has filmed scientists at the frontline of ocean discoveries from Indonesia.
Across the weekend, SeaFest involved many female marine scientists, educators and also many from the marine economy.